We must remember Hitler

Uncle Glen died last week. My dad (Wayne) and his brothers, Glen and Dale, all finished World War II as sergeants of various types.

Dale and Glen were in the Battle of the Bulge, and on into Germany. Dad was in the landing against the Vichy French in North Africa, was in Rommel?s defeat, the invasion of Sicily, the landing on Anzio on up to the Italian-Austrian border.

All three men received multiple combat decorations.

I?m sure I know more about Dad because I lived with him for a while.

Their fourth brother, Uncle Noel, was enough younger that he was in the Korean War.

Their sister, Arlene, married my Uncle Kenny, who was an officer on a Navy mine sweeper preparing the way for the landings against the Japanese on islands in the Pacific.

Their immediate family is all gone now. My cousins and I have become the older generation in a world they helped order for us.

I have said I don?t wish to write about wars and military actions so much anymore, but they can?t be ignored.

The people of the world just never seem to get it, that making our way on this planet given to us isn?t helped by killing or attempting to dominate each other.

It reminds me again of George. While taking some graduate-level courses in history at Kansas State University in the 1980s, I enrolled in a course George taught titled Twentieth Century History.

He explained that as a graduate course, it would concentrate on the single most influential person of the 1900s. He asked us who we thought that might be, and the guesses ranged from Henry Ford to Dwight Eisenhower to John Ken?nedy and so on.

Then George noted he was saying the ?most influential,? not the ?most liked,? and that, without a doubt, was Adolf Hitler.

After thinking about it a few moments, we had to admit he was right. In my own family, I had to consider how the lives of my father and uncles were changed. In my last conversations with Glen he said, in so many words, Hitler had changed him very profoundly.

George was an Austrian-born Jew, who emigrated from there before the Anschluss, and joined the American military to fight in World War II.

He usually spoke of Hitler as Adolf when most people would say ?Hitler,? which I found interesting. He began by talking about the city of Linz, Austria, where Adolf grew up, and where ?I also grew up.?

After class one day, I said to George that he seemed to know so much about Hitler and Linz that I wondered if he couldn?t elaborate more on relationships and his personal memories of the city.

I seemed to have surprised him. He looked at me and said, very abruptly, ?No, I couldn?t possibly do that.?

Later, when I asked another faculty member of the department about George?s reaction, she replied, ?Oh, you don?t know his personal history then??

She explained to me that George, a man I came to admire very much, was a member of the family of the Jewish doctor who treated Hitler?s family. The Nazis expedited the family out of Europe to spare any embarrassment to Hitler before they began the mass concentration camp murders of so many Jews who had to remain.

My professor, George, carried such a burden of guilt about leaving Europe when millions of other Jews had to die that he couldn?t talk about the relationship.

I really don?t know about how well he knew ?Adolf? outside academic study, or if he really knew him at all. He may have just known the relationship.

All of these people were so profoundly affected by a man and a war. We can?t afford to forget them.

To elaborate, we can?t afford to forget Adolf Hitler and his thinking lest we become like him.

The United States must continue to remain strong militarily. Yet even though fewer people are called upon to fight in our conflicts, the rest of us can?t afford to forget how and why they go. We will all be affected.

At the same time, our freedoms and non-interference by government must be maintained. We owe that much to ourselves, to people like my Uncle Glen, and people like George.